As the long summer evenings stretch out, it’s time for us to do the same. Harness the positivity and energy of the summer months and try your hand at Pilates. Not sure where to start? Allow us to inspire you with our beginner’s guide, created with a little help from Pilates instructor and wellness blogger Lottie Murphy.
Pilates is a workout for the body and the mind, built around six principals – concentration, control, centre, flow, precision, and breathing. Movements are considered and balanced; centred on building core strength. In fact, the techniques are so central to core stability; you may well recognise some of the movements from the gym and exercise classes.
As well as offering grounding for strength and mobility, Pilates is the perfect salve for modern life; providing much-needed mental space and improving your mind-body connection.
While there are versions of Pilates based around apparatus (such as Reformer Pilates) mat-based practice is the ideal place to start. Not only does it allow you to work on the foundations and ease into movements, it’s also perfect for fitting around your lifestyle – hop on the mat for 20 minutes before work or take some time over lunch to centre yourself.
Pilates is low-impact so injuries are rare but it’s still a good idea to head to a few classes when you’re starting out to perfect the movements and ensure proper form. Once you’re feeling confident, take your practice home and indulge in your own time.
What You Need
To start Pilates, you need nothing more than a mat, a comfortable outfit and a little time. No gym memberships or technical equipment; it’s the ultimate in accessible exercise. Give yourself plenty of space to stretch and move, put your phone on silent and focus on your well-being.
The fundamentals of Pilates are breathing, alignment and centring, and there are a few beginner moves which encompass them perfectly. Focus on moving thoughtfully and fluidly:
Seated side bend: Sitting cross-legged on your mat, plant one palm on the mat and float the other arm up and over your head. Slowly bring your arm down and repeat the movement on the other side. Keep the movements slow and gentle. This is a great lateral stretch for your spine.
Pelvic tilts: Lying flat on your back, draw your feet up towards your hips, soles of the feet flat on the mat. Place your hands on your pelvis and gently tip it backwards and forwards. This is also known as ‘imprinting’.
Chest lifts: Keeping your feet in the same position as you did for pelvic tilts, place your arms behind your head and curl upwards, pointing the chin to the chest. Movements should be slow and controlled. To build upon chest lifts and engage your core further, bring the feet up off the floor and bend the knees – toes pointing towards the end of the mat.
Supine twist: Lie flat on your back with your legs lifted (calves in line with the floor). Spread your arms wide and gently and carefully twist your legs to one side. Stop before you reach the floor and return to centre. Repeat from side to side.
Arm and leg reach: Kneel on all fours, ensuring the arms are directly under the shoulders and the legs are directly under the hips. Straighten and lift your right leg behind you and straighten and lift your left arm in front. Slowly come back to all fours and repeat on the other side.
With just a few simple movements in your armoury, you’ll begin to increase your mobility, stabilise your core and gain the ability to centre body and mind. To build upon these fundamentals, follow along with Lottie Murphy’s exclusive Pilates practice below: